CHESTER >> According to Tawfeeq Abdul-Lateef, his first name has a special meaning in his chosen religion.
“It means success,” Abdul-Lateef said.
Glen Mills needed a running back to emerge after starter Quadir Gibson did not return after halftime of Saturday’s Del Val League season finale at the Chester Athletic Complex.
Abdul-Lateef was called upon, along with Tarion Carlton and Jahnoni Hickerson, to shoulder the responsibilities.
You could say Abdul-Lateef lived up to his name.
Abdul-Lateef had two fourth-quarter touchdown runs as Glen Mills pulled away from Chester and claimed a 36-12 victory.
The Bulls (5-5 overall, 2-3 league) will enter the District 1 5A playoffs next week. With a potent ground operation, Glen Mills is a difficult opponent for anyone in the tournament.
“This week in practice, that was everybody’s mindset, to get to the playoffs (and) to put in hard work so that we could execute today,” said Abdul-Lateef, who had 37 yards on six carries. “To me, there ain’t a team that’s great. We all want to get better. We mess up every day and we have to learn from it and work hard.”
With the exception of a few hiccups Saturday, Glen Mills certainly showed that it has come a long way since the summer. Per usual, the Bulls got better as the season wore on.
“I’m very proud of our kids,” coach Kevin Owens said. “A lot of people don’t understand Glen Mills. We start with a very small window and a short period of time to get these guys ready to go. It’s their dedication and hard work that pushes us where we are. We have coaches who are behind these guys 100 percent, and they got to believe in themselves. That’s a challenge for a Glen Mills coach, in getting kids to believe that they can play this game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
After the win Saturday, players doused coach Owens with a water cooler. In the huddle he told them about the year the Bulls qualified for the district final (2013) and came close to winning the program’s first district title. Owens sees the same potential in this year’s club.
“Yes, I do think we have the kind of kids that are hard-nosed enough that can push their way to make an opportunity to make a run at this,” Owens said. “Will it happen? We’ll see.”
Sophomore linebacker Jesus Perez and senior linemen Bomani Branson put forth strong performances Saturday against Chester (2-8, 0-5). Like many young men that come through the program, Perez had never played organized football prior to arriving at Glen Mills.
“This is my first year playing ball and it feels great to be a part of it. You couldn’t do it without our team,” said Perez, who had a sack and disrupted a handful of other plays in the backfield. “I learn a lot playing with the team, I find out stuff I never knew before. It’s a blessing.”
Tarion Carlton, a 5-8, 213-pound fullback, rumbled his way to a game-high 84 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown. His score from six yards out in the second quarter gave Glen Mills a lead it wouldn’t relinquish
“We’ve had faith in each other from the first day in practice,” Carlton said. “It’s amazing.”
Chester made due without starting quarterback Jamir Green. That meant a start for sophomore Tahree Fuller-Bryan (4 of 21, 82 yards) and plenty of Braheem Bishop Jr. The exciting wide receiver/athlete caught a touchdown pass and also threw for one. Bishop had 73 yards rushing, 21 passing and 38 receiving.
The loss knocked Chester out of District 1 Class 5A playoff consideration. The Clippers were one of several six-and seven-loss teams in the running for the final postseason berth.